Oh, Chancellorsville. No CW battle is as frustrating. Hooker planted some good seeds, but everything #OTD in 1863 that could go wrong DID go wrong (except for, um, the aim of the 18th N. Carolina) cuz Stonewall’s flank march took the Union by surprise. Or so the story goes … Image
But even as a young Civil War "buff," my Trapper Keeper festooned with corps badges, I thought: “Oh, sure, Lee as Superhero again. How do 33,000 stinky dudes, knapsacks & guns a-clankin’, horses neighing, sneak up on an army without raising dust & alarm?”

Turns out, they didn’t. Image
At Chancellorsville, the Army of the Potomac experienced an almost unbelievable concurrence of Tough Luck, Brain Farts, Bad Weather, Buck Passing, Wrong Place/Wrong Timeism, and Not All The McClellan Washed Out Quite Yet. It’s almost as if Joe Hooker had Bad Karma or something. Image
Gen. Oliver Howard typically gets the blame for the disaster; he had just taken over the hapless 11th Corps, which was two-thirds German, from the popular Franz Sigel. Hooker put the 11th on the right to be as far away from the action as possible. (And the Gods of War did laugh.) Image
Howard is an easy target: he had the charisma of stale hardtack and had a bad day on May 2. Hooker warned him not once but TWICE that his flank wasn’t anchored on a natural defensive position like a hill or river, and his troops were facing the wrong way if a flank attack came. Image
Howard was dozing when the messages came, along with reports of enemy infantry moving west through the wilderness. Gen. Carl Schurz woke him up (just by staring, presumably) and urged him to reorient his troops for a flank attack. But Howard later said he never got such warnings. Image
But Howard doesn’t deserve all the blame; Hooker knew in the morning that bodies of Rebel troops were moving to his right. However, Hooker also believed his own hype--and he assumed they were RETREATING (sigh) cuz his Napoleonic Maneuvering(™) had forced Lee to withdraw. #OhJoe Image
Even Prof. Lowe’s observation balloons -- those much-ballyhooed, rarely reliable attempts at airborne espionage -- failed in spectacular, Straight Outta Loony Tunes fashion. See, it was a super-windy day, so when the balloons went up in the air, they spun in REAL FAST circles … Image
Have you ever tried to count Rebels when you’re spinning on the Tea Cups at Disneyland, hoping you don’t puke up an overpriced churro? It was like that. Plus, the scientists didn’t know how to count regimental flags, and Army officers were wary about going aloft. #MilCiv #Divide Image
Of course, Dan Sickles wasn’t one to be left out of an intelligence failure. When his troops, led by the famed Berdan’s Sharpshooters, clashed with Rebels guarding the rear of Stonewall’s march, he spotted their wagon trains and pronounced: “I think it is a retreat.” #Nope Image
Surely, you ask, captured Rebels must have spilled the beans? Of course they did! Have YOU ever known a young dude who loves the Confederacy to keep his mouth shut? They all but screamed, “Turn around! There goes Stonewall on a flank march!” But nobody Important in Blue cared. Image
Federal cavalry SHOULD have spotted Stonewall on his 10-mile march, but most were off on a (fairly pointless) raid into Lee’s rear. And Reynolds’ veteran corps SHOULD have been moving in on Howard’s right, but telegraph breakdowns (yes, they had bad Wi-Fi back then) delayed it. Image
Finally we come to Gen. Charles Devens, who commanded the extreme right of Howard’s flank. You know how a humble professor from Maine earned a nation’s gratitude by making DAMN SURE nothing got around the far left at Gettysburg? Well, Devens was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of that. Image
A Harvard Law grad (eye roll), and one of those Massachusetts dudes who loathes anyone who's not from New England (is there a word for those types of guys? I can’t put my finger on it), Devens was new to command and his men, mostly from Germany and Ohio, already hated him. Image
The day before, Devens rode his horse into a tree (hey, we all celebrate Derby Day in our own way), which gave him the excuse to lay around and drink brandy. Cuz what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like Stonewall’s gonna burst through the forest like the KOOL-AID MAN. Image
All day, pickets in Devens’ ranks spotted enemy troops, told their officers, only for those reports to be dismissed. As Stonewall crept closer and the sightings increased, Devens and Howard (who was gone from HQ much of the day) only became MORE convinced their men were spooked. Image
So it fell to officers like Schurz to gulp nervously, catch other guys with an eye twitch that meant, ‘Point zat cannon ze other way. NOW” and hope their bosses didn’t notice. Meanwhile, rabbits and deer came bounding out of the woods. One guy saw a BEAR.

(This was NOT good.) Image
In a matter of moments, as many in the 11th corps were sitting down to salt pork and coffee, “Jackson was on us and fear was on us,” as one Ohio soldier put it. During the rout, Devens was shot in the foot -- pretty apt for a guy who spent the afternoon shooting HIMSELF there. Image
The story of the right flank’s collapse, and the valiant defense put up by remnants of the 11th Corps, along with the 3rd and 12th, will have to wait. As will the events that befell Stonewall when his penchant to get ONE MORE CLOSER LOOK finally came back to haunt him ... Image
And I know it’s hard to fathom how generals charged with safeguarding national security could miss SO MANY WARNING SIGNS about an obvious, imminent assault. But it was harder back then: StonewallFan69 wasn’t posting about it on Twitter beforehand.
#Lessons #OfChancellorsville Image

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More from @CivilWarHumor

4 May
A couple days ago, I talked about the 11th Corps at Chancellorsville, when the mostly German troops were (literally) caught napping by Stonewall’s flank attack and routed. But not all of them ran. Lemme tell you about a Medal of Honor winner they called “Leatherbreeches" … Image
Meet Hubert Anton Casimir Dilger -- you may recognize his stylish European haughtiness from such places as the Eurovision semi-finals or the Black Forest of Germany, where he attended the famed Karlsruhe Military Academy and served in the Grand Duke of Baden’s Horse Artillery. Image
Fate, of course, dictated that Dilger fell in love with the Grand Duke’s daughter -- cuz isn’t that what 90 percent of European literature is about? A rakish young officer from the Wrong Side of Baden-Baden tries to woo the Duke’s daughter in a passionate but hopeless romance? Image
Read 15 tweets
26 Apr
A collection of diaries from a soldier in the 150th Ohio, Samuel Folsom, got auctioned off last week -- too rich for my blood, but the auctioneers posted excerpts online and, like so many from that era, he was articulate and personable, with a sense of humor. Let’s take a peek …
Folsom hailed from Cleveland, where he heard Frederick Douglass deliver a lecture on the missions of the war in early 1864. “I enjoyed it very much. Douglas displays very fine powers of oratory and has a head that looks as though it might contain a great deal of knowledge.” #Yep
Folsom was an accountant (deduct that kepi!) and despite Douglass’ stirring words, was NOT thrilled about marching off to war. “I telegraphed home to inquire if Father had procured a substitute for me,” meaning someone paid to take his place. “Rec’d an answer: ‘No.’”
Read 13 tweets
17 Apr
HOLD ON. As a disciple of Grady McWhiney, the problematic Civil War scholar and Braxton Bragg biographer, I was taught that the Southern Warrior(™) descended directly from tribal Celts, NOT the Anglo-Saxons! That’s why the Rebs fought so hard but recklessly, or some bullshit …
And, sure, McWhiney’s Celtic Thesis has been widely discredited by things like migration patterns and the fact there were more “Celtic” descendants in the UNION ranks (oops), but if leading Republicans wanna do Batshit Crazy Race Theory, they should AT LEAST be consistent.
Can you IMAGINE if our intellectually rigorous right-wingers caught wind of, say, Tucker Carlson contradicting a Truth that William F. Buckley laid down? It would NEVER happen. Cuz that’s what stands out about the last 40 years of Republican thinking: the unassailable logic.
Read 5 tweets
13 Apr
I tell this story every year, as a kind of Moral Parable, but it doesn't seem to sink in. So here we go again, America: it's time to hear how the fire-breathing secessionist Roger Pryor almost became the first casualty of the war thanks to his own breathtaking stupidity.
Pryor, who is inevitably described as a “fiery orator” even though he has the same dead-eyed Stare of the Soulless as Tucker Carlson, was asked to take the first shot on Fort Sumter, but turned it down, saying: “I could not fire the first gun of the war.”
The next day, while visiting Sumter to negotiate the Federal surrender, Pryor saw a bottle on the table and, being full of swagger, took a swig. A Union surgeon approached him and said: “Sir, what you have drunk is poison. It was iodide of potassium and you are a dead man.” #Oops
Read 9 tweets
12 Apr
“And now we go LIVE to our correspondent, CivilWarHumor, who says the Rebels have fired on Fort Sumter.”
“That’s right, Bill. It’s a dramatic day, and let there be no doubt: The South started it. But I’m here with the guy who fired the first Union shot, Abner Doubleday ...”
“Capt. Doubleday, talk about the mindset you went out there with today.”
“Well, when we were firing the cannons in warmups, I knew I didn’t have my best stuff.”
“Ok ...”
“So I just tried to stay within myself and let the war come to me. Which it did — you can’t deny that.”
“And, Abner, how did YOU get to fire the first Union shot?”
“I wasn’t in the starting lineup. But our major, Robert Anderson, is from a Kentucky slave-owning family. Whereas I’m a staunch, abrasive abolitionist.”
“So you came out of the bullpen.”
“I stepped up to the plate.”
Read 11 tweets
11 Apr
“Uncle CivilWarHumor, tell us a story about the day after Shiloh.”
“I don’t like to talk about it.”
“Why? The Union drove the Rebels from the field. Bragg was practically in tears. That’s kinda your bag. Or is Shiloh too sad? Too many deaths?”
“Always. But also one too few ...” Image
“THEY HAD HIM!” (CWH grabs Nathan Bedford Forrest voodoo doll and jabs at it with a Swiss army knife) “They had Forrest IN THEIR GRASP and he got away!”
“You’re using the tweezers, uncle. What happened?”
“It’s getting late.”
“Ain’t no bedtime in COVID.”
“Ok, you twisted my arm." Image
“After Shiloh, Sherman pursued the Rebels.”
“He usually did.”
“That’s true. He came upon a field hospital guarded by Forrest’s cavalry, who chopped down trees to block the path.”
“Whoa. Did Sherman and Forrest engage in Single Combat as in days of yore?”
“They came mighty close." Image
Read 8 tweets

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